Comedy as a film genre is one that never seems to slip from our most watched lists and it’s so popular that it’s even made its way into other genres like Romance, creating the ever-popular Rom- Com. Yet, despite their continued popularity, there were particular British comedies during the 1980s/90s that seem to change the game when it came to what makes viewers laugh. They are a merging of the slapstick comedy popular earlier in the 20th Century such as the Carry on films and the cruder one-liners that are common on our screens today. So why are they so popular?
Let us give you an example, the extremely successful The Full Monty (1997) won the BAFTA Award for best film in 1997, beating the expected winner Titanic and was voted 25th on the BFI Top 100 British Films in 1999. For us, one of the reasons for its success is that, despite being a comedy, the film also engages with more serious social issues including body consciousness, unemployment and suicide. It is down to earth and gritty yet insists on laughing in the face of deprivation. The inclusion of those serious topics may hint at the secret behind the success of such films as it touches on very relatable and tangible human qualities. This theme was common among other successful comedies of the time such as Brassed Off (1996).
Surprisingly, these serious themes are also recognisable in the famously silly Monty Python sketches during the same era. For example, they touch on class snobbery in the Four Yorkshiremen sketch as merging silliness with intellectual concepts seems to be a winning combination in their comedies.
Some recent films have taken on a similar formula such as Pride (2014) where again social issues such as discrimination and economic deprivation are centre stage and comedy and tragedy co-exist, but it is not as common as it once was. Even though we have suggested some reasons, it will most likely remain a mystery as to why these comedies were, and still are, so popular but what do you think about them…..